Vol XXV No. 4 Winter 2018
As we go to press, the forty-first president of the United States, George Herbert Walker Bush, has just been laid to rest. His serious term of office during the final years of the Cold War (1988-92) seems lightyears from our own decadent period of no-holds-barred political con-artistry. The Soviet Union was imploding, though the timing was still hard to predict.
The following is a transcript of the ninety-fourth in a series of Capitol Hill conferences convened by the Middle East Policy Council. The meeting was held at the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, DC, on November 30, 2018, with Richard J. Schmierer, chairman of the Council's board of directors, moderating, and Thomas R. Matthair, the Council's executive director, serving as discussant. The video can be accessed at mepc.org.
The ongoing reshuffle in the Middle East has generated new competition among regional powers, the resurgence of the Saudi-Iranian rivalry being a major one. It is sectarian (Sunni vs Shiite), ethnic (Arab vs Persian), ideological (U.S.-allied vs US-opposed), and geopolitical. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia present themselves as the leaders of both the Middle East and the Muslim world, and their competition has expanded to include Africa.
Iraqi and Arab Gulf relations noticeably improved after the election of Iraq Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in September 2014 and his government's ability to stop the spread of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). However, further rapprochement is constrained by historical, social and geo-political factors. Iraq-Gulf relations are dynamic, complex and multifaceted. The three main political components in Iraq — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — all have different positions regarding the Arab Gulf states.
Rapprochement between Iraq and Saudi Arabia since 2014 started with of the rise of new political actors on both sides: Haider al-Abadi and Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq and Muhammad bin Salman in Saudi Arabia. Both share pro-Western attitudes and rivalry with Iran. Both were also seriously challenged by the temporary rise of ISIS, and the defeat of the organization by Abadi's Iraq prompted further cooperation to prevent its reemergence. Iraqi-Saudi relations have a complex and fraught history.
After more than a decade of active animosity, relations between Iraq and certain GCC member states have been warming up. However, Iran will resist an inter-Arab rapprochement at the expense of its own interest. Tehran has invested heavily in the coming to power of a friendly Iraqi Shiite administration. Isolated in the Middle East and facing active hostility from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Iran will do everything it can to sabotage normalization between Iraq and its Arab neighbors.
In 2013, China launched the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with the goals of securing China's energy sources and expanding its economic networks to the Asia-Pacific region, North and East Africa, and the Mediterranean regions by way of Russia, Central and South Asia. Many of the BRI projects involve infrastructure building in China as well as in politically unstable or economically disadvantaged countries. To ensure a successful initiative and safeguard China's investments, issues of domestic and regional security become vital.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China's Marshall Plan, displays China's transition from a regional to a global power, with the ports of Karachi and Gwadar serving its naval influence and control.1 The response of other neighbors or stakeholders to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), a crucial flank of the BRI, can be briefly stated. Iran is delighted with China's willingness under the CPEC umbrella to fund Islamabad's share of a long-overdue gas pipeline between Iran and Pakistan, implying that Pakistan would reduce its huge oil imports from Saudi Arabia.
Scholarship on Pakistan's relations with its neighbors predominantly focuses on India, Afghanistan and, most recently, China. Little research is conducted on relations between Pakistan and Iran.
This article argues that President Putin's securitization agenda stems from the second Chechen War and is far more pragmatic concerning Russian engagement in the Middle East than former Soviet policies. The Kremlin is intent on regaining leverage in its bilateral relationships with the United States and the European Union. Furthermore, in an era of economic hardship, Moscow is seeking out new regional relationships based on securing future liquefied natural gas (LNG) supply networks, nuclear energy contracts and defense cooperation.
Relations between Syria and Iraq are described as some of the "most perplexing" in Arab politics.1 No two other Arab countries match their consistent level of rivalry and hostility. Enmity has always been a constant feature of Syrian-Iraqi relations — and it only partially ended with the demise of the Baath regime in Baghdad following the 2003 war. This article investigates the Iran-Iraq War period (1980-88) and analyzes the factors that determined the conflict between Syria and Iraq.
Jordan is one of the last bastions of stability in an otherwise volatile region. However, its stability is threatened by a continuing economic crisis. In a survey conducted across all twelve governorates in 2017, only 22 percent of citizens view Jordan's overall economic condition as "good" or "very good" compared to 49 percent two years ago.1 Against this backdrop of economic frustration, Jordan is embarking on a decentralization process at the local level in an attempt to bring decision making closer to the citizen.
The non-Jewish minority in Israel — Muslim Arabs, Christian Arabs, Druze, Circassians and Bedouins — has been a topic of ongoing research since the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. The Arab sector is the largest in population. One of the key issues that concern scholars, and the Arabs themselves, is the political array within this minority.
Russian scholar Alexei Vasiliev has been writing about Middle Eastern and African affairs since the early 1960s. He was a Pravda correspondent for over two decades before moving to the Institute of African Studies of the (first Soviet, then Russian) Academy of Sciences.
It is no exaggeration to say that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia owes its wealth, power and international stature for the most part to the vast oil resources lying beneath its deserts and waters.
This book examines the developments that have transformed the relationship between government and business in post-1980 Turkey.
Fawaz A. Gerges has delivered an ambitious and authoritative analysis of the ideological clashes of the nationalist and Islamist movements of the Arab world.
Anyone familiar with the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict will undoubtedly be baffled by the question that forms the title of Carlstrom's book.